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Joint US-China mission tackles illicit driftnet fishing
By Hu Chong (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-07-22 05:35

SHANGHAI: Chinese and US fisheries enforcement authorities this week embarked on their first-ever joint patrol of the North Pacific, on the look out for illegal driftnet fishing, a Chinese fishery official said yesterday.

A 1,000-ton China Fisheries Administration vessel took part in the three-day joint cruise with the US Coast Guard Cutter "Jarvis."

The ships set out on their mission Sunday morning, Beijing time, and boarded and inspected vessels in the North Pacific suspected of illegal driftnet fishing, the Ministry of Agriculture's Fisheries Administration Bureau of the East Sea said.

On Tuesday, officials from both sides met on the Chinese vessel to discuss how best to combat illegal fishing. They agreed to strengthen co-operation this year to counter the threat of increased illegal fishing, the bureau said.

The two sides exchanged two inspectors each who accompanied their counterparts on enforcement jobs. The US side provided pictures of vessels suspected of fishing illegally.

"Both sides agreed that the joint activity made progress in bilateral co-operation In particular, the practice of sending inspectors to each other's vessel for enforcement should be continued," the bureau said in a document released to the press.

China has been sending vessels to the North Pacific for the last four years to take part in joint enforcement with the United States, but this is the first year the two country's vessels have cruised together in formation.

The operation finished on Tuesday afternoon and the two sides are now patrolling independently, but will continue to exchange information, the bureau said.

Driftnets longer than 1.5 miles (2. 4 kilometres) are prohibited under a 1992 United Nations General Assembly moratorium. Used to catch tuna, salmon and squid, the fine nylon mesh nets, which are set below the surface to drift overnight, are almost invisible.

Up to 20 miles (32 kilometres) long, illegal driftnets indiscriminately catch whatever marine species they encounter including dolphins and whales.

Many Asian ships in the Pacific Ocean began using the nets to catch squid, tuna and other species, but the large incidental catch of protected, endangered and unwanted fish sparked international protest, leading to a UN moratorium on their use.

(China Daily 07/22/2005 page2)

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